Hm, finally a middling episode at best from this series. There are plenty of missed opportunities in this week’s episode. When I saw all those knights on dragonback pursuing our heroes, I was hoping to see a high speed chase through the skies. Perhaps some spells slung here, some arrows shot there — y’know, just the high-octane action we’ve come to expect from this series. No such thing, though. The next time we see our heroes, they’ve already been captured. Well, that’s a shame, isn’t it? Why did MAPPA pass up such a golden opportunity? As you watch the episode, you start to realize why. The animation quality isn’t bad, but it has definitely gone down a touch. When combined with the missed opportunities, this thus feels like Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis’ cost-cutting episode.
We’re in a bit of a holding pattern here, too. The demons want Amira, but the angels got her first. They thus intend to use her as bait to lure out the individual who was using Amira to steal the God Key. Even though Bahamut threatens to awaken and destroy them all, it’s the eternal struggle between angels and demons that rules the day. Unfortunately, this is nothing we haven’t already learned or discerned from the previous episodes. So like I’ve said, we’re in a holding pattern. What about the feud between Favaro and Kaisar? They merely duel for a short bit before Amira’s disappearance forces Rita to rudely interrupt their fight with her zombie rocket punches. Of course, the episode isn’t without its revelations, but they’re kinda… subdued in a way. They feel like tiny plot developments rather than something that really grabs hold of your attention.
For instance, Lavalley frees Amira from her house arrest, then tells her that her mother had asked him to hold onto a pendant — a pendant very much like the one in Amira’s possession. Of course, when you have a girl who is desperate to find her mother, she also jumps to the conclusion that perhaps this man is her father. Despite the episode’s rather cliffhangerish ending, I don’t have the feeling that some knight in the army just happens to be Amira’s father. But we’ll see. We also learn Jeanne was hand-picked by the gods to fulfill the role of the holy knight destined to bring peace to the land. But unfortunately, this bit of information merely comes out in a boring conversation between her and Favaro. We also learn that she’s getting stronger by the day, and this is perhaps making the king feel uneasy. But like I’ve said, this revelation feels subdued.
What we see here hasn’t been MAPPA’s formula, so I can’t help but return to the idea that they’re trying to save money. There’s only one impressive bit of action in this week’s episode, and it is a short one. When demons try to attack the Royal Capital of Anatae with giant, hulking ghouls, Jeanne personally rides into battle with her Maltet, a holy spear, in hand. If you’ve read my most recent Sword Art Online episode, you should remember how I lambasted that anime for its inability to add any drama to the action. Its characters were up against giant golems, but the cinematography never once let us feel as though those golems had an imposing size to them. MAPPA at least knows what to do. As such, we get interesting angles to establish the fact that these ghouls completely dwarf Jeanne. Nevertheless, she destroys them anyway.
Yes, we know that the good guys will usually save the day as they are wont to do. So no one’s surprised to see Jeanne overcome the ghouls just like no one should be surprised to see SAO’s heroes take out those golems. But you can still make the victory look impressive, and that’s what cinematography can help accomplish. Jeanne is so tiny compared to her opponents, so the fact that she beats them easily should tell you a thing or two about her and her capabilities. And that’s what a proper action scene should do. It shouldn’t just thrill you; it should add drama to the story. Is Jeanne too strong? What else can she do? Can you really put the fate of the entire world in her hands? Not only that, the rest of the scene doesn’t take place on a blank canvas. A ghoul’s head comes crashing to the ground at one point. These tiny details are help to set the show apart.
People ask me on Ask.fm if SAO is at least pretty to look at. No, it’s not. Animation is more than just close-ups of sterile-looking characters striking a pose. The entire image needs to be a painting — a painting that tells a story. Yes, Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis zooms into Jeanne’s face once, but only once to show us her determination and anger. For the most part, the camera is pulled back to let you see the immensity of not just the ghoul, but the wide-open landscape in which the battle takes place. The only pity is that this is the only action scene in the entire episode, and like I’ve said, it’s a short one. It’s meant to convey the king’s uneasiness at Jeanne’s continual rise in power, but it’s the one few bits of “show” in an episode full of “tells.” There’s just a lot more talk than I’m accustomed to.
A conversation between the angels and the king. A conversation amongst the angels themselves. A conversation between Azazel and Martinet. A conversation between Favaro and Jeanne. It’s just one series of talking one after the other. Well, let’s hope MAPPA got that out of their system. And let’s see if Favaro will finally feel bad for letting Amira down. He’s got to feel something, right? Why bother saving her and Kaisar if he’s going to dump Amira the first chance that he gets? Sure, the curse is bothersome, but it’s something he could’ve lived with until the day he died. You don’t put your life on the line and infiltrate a demon’s castle on a whim. He’s perhaps charmed by the amenities found in Anatae for now, but it still feels like he’s holding something back. What is his reason and purpose in this world?